Diving for Mikasa is five-time Espinho Open winner Ricardo Santos of Brazil
Lausanne, Switzerland, July 2, 2018 - While the main draw on the FIVB World Tour attracts much of the attention at international beach volleyball events, it is the preliminary rounds made up of country quota and qualifying matches that provide the early highlights where veterans players seek renewed success with new partners.
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The preliminary rounds also produce a look into the future for the international circuit where the men's pairs like France's Olivier Barthelemy/Romain Di Giantommaso, Germany's Julius Thole/Clemens Wickler and Philipp Bergmann/Yannick Harms, Lithuania's Lukas Kazdailis/Arnas Rumsevicius, Norway's Mathias Berntsen/Hendrik Mol and Switzerland's Simon Hagenbuch/Quentin Métral have posted success in the FIVB qualifiers.
Germany's Julius Thole (left) and Clemens Wickler
With FIVB double gender events set to be staged in Croatia, Portugal and Russia this week, the Portuguese qualifiers are Wednesday for women and Thursday for men in Espinho where eight teams per gender will advance to the Main Draws. Four pairs from each gender will gain Main Draw berths after Thursday's preliminary rounds at the Croatian and Russian events in Porec and Anapa, respectively.
Tuesday's women's and Wednesday's men's country quota schedule at the Portuguese coastal resort in Espinho will begin the early World Tour highlights this week where Olympic and world champion Ricardo Santos will attempt to qualifying for a FIVB event that he has previously won five times and also placed on the podium eight times.
The Espinho country quota rounds will feature five Brazilian teams (three men and two women) and two men's pairs from the United States competing for spots in Wednesday's qualifier for each country. Ricardo will team with Gustavo "Guto" Carvalhaes as the pair challenges compatriots Saymon Barbosa/Álvaro Filho and Thiago Santos/Geroge Wanderley for the Brazilian men's spot in Wednesday’s qualifier.
2017 Espinho gold medal winner George Wanderley of Brazil
The American playoff pits Miles Evans/William Kolinske against Jeremy Casebeer/Reid Priddy. Evans and Kolinske earned podium placements earlier this season in the Netherlands (Aalsmeer silver) and Australia (Sydney bronze) while Priddy is making the transition to the beach after winning Olympic volleyball gold (Beijing 2008) and bronze (Rio 2016) medals for the United States.
Reid Priddy of the United States
The Brazilian women's playoff features newcomers Rebecca Cavalcanti/Ana Patricia Silva challenging Josemari Alves/Liliane Maestrini, who have topped two FIVB podiums this season in China.
Liliane Maestrini (left) and Josemari Alves of Brazil
Last week in Poland, Saymon and Alvaro won the Brazilian country quota round over their two rival pairs to advance to the Warsaw Open qualifier where the pair earned a spot in the main draw in the Polish capital. All six Brazilians players have achieved FIVB success led by Ricardo, who has combined to win six Olympic and World Championship medals in his 23-season career on the World Tour.
Saymon and Alvaro have won two medals and one title in 15 FIVB events together with Guto posting two World Tour gold medal wins the past two seasons with different partners. Wanderley captured the 2017 Espinho title with Vitor Felipe. Despite not placing on the podium at a FIVB World Tour event, Thiago has competed in 66 international events with more than $100,000 in earnings with 19 top-nine finishes.
In addition to the American and Brazilian teams in the Espinho qualifier, the other featured pair will be Thole/Wickler and Kazdailis/Rumseviciu along with the Japanese women's team of Minori Kumada/Yui Nagata.
Lithuania's Lukas Kazdailis (left) and Arnas Rumsevicius
Thole and Wickler have posted the top men’s or women’s FIVB World Tour qualifying record this season. The Germans have advanced from six of nine FIVB men's qualifiers with a 12-3 match mark in the preliminary rounds.
Kazdailis/Rumseviciu have been successful four times in seven qualifying men’s bids with a 9-3 record. Kumada/Nagata have advanced from four of eight women's qualifying attempts with one preliminary success leading to a silver medal finish at May's Vietnam stop on Tuan Chau Island.
Diving for Mikasa is Japan's Minori Kumada
Here are the top qualifying teams on the 2017-2018 FIVB World Tour through the June 27 preliminary rounds in Warsaw.